About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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"To the extent that the new sacred music is to serve the liturgical celebrations of the various churches, it can and must draw from earlier forms — especially from Gregorian chant — a higher inspiration, a uniquely sacred quality, a genuine sense of what is religious."
— Pope John Paul II (June 1980)

Why is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?
published 30 July 2016 by Jeff Ostrowski

N “ALICE IN WONDERLAND,” author Lewis Carroll created a riddle which, by design, had no solution: “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” But fans pressed him relentlessly for an answer, so he thought up a solution to quiet them: “Because it can produce a few notes, though they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!” Unfortunately, Carroll’s editors “corrected” his spelling of NEVER, spoiling his solution (“Raven” spelled backwards).

It sounds like Carroll’s editors had a little bit of piccoluomini in them … we’ve often talked about the liturgical “experts” who tried to be smarter than everybody else. Many were scandalized by the sloppy methods of the reformers. For example, Cardinal Antonelli (Concilium Secretary before Bugnini) wrote:

“The Consilium is merely an assembly of people, many of them incompetent, and others well advanced on the road to novelty. The discussions are extremely hurried. Discussions are based on impressions and the voting is chaotic. […] Many of those who have influenced the reform […] have no love, and no veneration of that which has been handed down to us. They begin by despising everything that is actually there. This negative mentality is unjust and pernicious, and unfortunately, Paul VI tends a little to this side. They have all the best intentions, but with this mentality they have only been able to demolish and not to restore.”

The reformers wanted to restore the “pristine” forms of liturgy, yet moved the Sequence before the Alleluia, even though the Sequence developed as something which comes after the Alleluia as even its very name reminds us!   A much more serious abuse was their treatment of the poetic texts in which the meter was destroyed for ideological reasons. Further reading on those two examples can be found here:

      * *  Why was the Sequence moved? — Full Documentation

      * *  Destruction of Rhymes in Sequences — Cf. Section 2 of 3

The Vatican II reforms, however, were not the first Roman liturgical decisions to bother some Catholics. As I noted in 2012, it’s interesting to read the private correspondence of Adrian Fortescue, writing to Stanley Morison on 24 November 1919:

“To them it is not the history nor the development of rites that matter a bit, it is the latest decision of the Congregation of Rites. These decisions are always made by a crowd of dirty little Monsignori at Rome in utter ignorance of the meaning or reason of anything. To the historian their decisions are simply disgusting nonsense, that people of my kind want simply to ignore.”

PEOPLE HAVE BEGUN TO LOOK more critically at the reforms of Vatican II, and this is a good thing. If there were abuses in the past, let’s correct them! Rome did exactly that in the early 2000s, when ICEL was completely reformed. 1

One of the curious things about the Reform was a tendency toward “change for change’s sake.” Even before Vatican II, this tendency could be found. Cardinal Antonelli wrote the following about Cardinal Anselmo Albareda (a member of the Consilium):

“Father Albareda was of the same mind. He stressed that what was required by the principles of reform, even if at times costly, obliged that the present situation be suspended, even if everybody was attached to it.”   [!!!]

My humble opinon: If everyone is attached to it, leave it alone!

This article originally appeared on 28 April 2014. It has not been altered.


1   Publications by ICEL were called by the Vatican “dangerous to the faith” in the late 1990s, and that’s why Rome completely overhauled the organization. For more on the ICEL Psalter, see Reform of the Reform: A Perspective.